One of the Golden Rules of Twitter is that you ought to "Give before you get."

In other words, don't turn Twitter into a self-serving, one-way broadcast channel. Help your audience first and yourself second. You do this by sharing information, starting or responding to a discussion, favoriting others' tweets, and in general being a good Netizen.

Employ the 80/20 rule on Twitter: promote your company's services or products no more than 20 percent of the time. The Twitterverse expects good conversations–and, frankly, those are what make Twitter fun.

This often presents a challenge for the nascent or uninspired user, however. You might ask, "What do we tweet about if we're not supposed to tweet about ourselves?"

Here are 11 sensible alternatives to try: 

1. Other People's Tweets

This is one of the easiest, most obvious things to do. One of the key reasons to follow other people is to listen to what they have to say. Their tweets may be informative, clever, funny, interesting or useful.

Retweeting (or, in Twitterspeak, RT-ing) these tweets not only gives you something to tweet about, but it's a good way to help foster and build your Twitter relationships. Retweeting someone also gives them credit and shows that you value what they've said. You can even check your retweet value on Retweet Rank. 

2. Breaking News

Twitter is now the go-to source for breaking news. You can follow and monitor major news outlets like AP (@AP), CNN Breaking News (@CNNBreak), New York Times (@nytimes) and share breaking news as it happens. For that matter, you can also become the news if you see and tweet something newsworthy. Many an "Ordinary Joe" became part of history by tweeting live from the scene of a major news event (say, the U.S. Airways plane that landed in the Hudson River, or the uprisings in Egypt). 

3. Be a Curator

Even outside breaking news, people find other people's content just as informative ... and there's an awful lot of content out there to sift through. Provide a valuable service to the Twitter community in your field or specialty area by acting as a filter or curator: Find topical articles, blog posts, stats and facts, aggregated news pages or other sources of similar information–the same content you might already be tracking for professional reasons–and then tweet out those links.

Use relevant hashtags to help others find these tweets.


4. Help Requests

People commonly turn to the Twitterverse for instant help. They may be looking for answers to questions, wanting to spread the word about an event or survey, or even PR opportunities.

You can either respond to these requests directly or forward them along to your Followers by sharing it. And of course, you can also tweet for help yourself!


5. Thank Yous

Since Twitter is a public forum, it's a nice place to express your appreciation. That may be for someone RT-ing you or sharing something about you or your company–but you may also want to recognize a special customer experience or even a face-to-face interaction.

6. Evaluations, Reviews & Opinions

Checking out the latest gadget, gizmo or app? Many a tweet revolves around evaluations of, flaws found in and fixes for such things.

7. Oldies but Goodies

Don't be afraid to tweet great content more than once. People forget that with such a large Twitterverse and only so many hours in a day, some of your best content might go unseen.

Similarly, good content has staying power and its relevancy a few months or even years ago might be good to revisit today. Feel free to tweet content multiple times or tweet from the archives. Just spread it out over time, acknowledge that re-post (see example below), and mix it up.

8. Think Aloud

Are you a deep thinker? You might be surprised to find that people will follow you just to hear your own thoughts–and a handful of folks might even answer. (But get your grammar right.)

9. Entertain

Your tweets do not need to be all business, all the time. Many tweets contain quotes, song lyrics, trivia, links to entertaining videos and photos or provocative commentary. Just make sure you decide in advance what is appropriate for your brand, and stick to that standard.

10. Be a Connector

Great "tweeps" help facilitate connections through Twitter. You can do this by specifically introducing tweeps, sending out who-to-follow recommendations (like #FollowFriday), or even shouting out to your new followers.

11. Now ... About You

If you're following the 80/20 rule, by the time you get to #11 on this list, you've done for others and you can now do for yourself. If you're tweeting for business, here are just a few ideas to keep things interesting:

  • A new company blog post
  • Client acquisitions
  • Press announcements
  • Jobs available
  • Awards/recognition
  • Events you're hosting and/or are attending
  • Discussions you're hosting on LinkedIn
  • Special offers, sales or discounts

So you see, diversity in your tweeting just takes a little imagination. Once you get started, you might find all kinds of other things to tweet about.

Feel free to share them with me too–I'm at @hollisthomases, and I'll be happy to pass them along!